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Bearing witness: #11,103

THE DOCUMENTARY 11,103 had its Philippine premiere on Sept. 21, the date of Presidential Decree 1081 which placed the Philippines under Marcos’ Martial Law. There were screenings in Quezon City, Cebu, Dumaguete, Iloilo, and Bacolod as well as in American cities. The number 11,103 represents the number of claimants officially recognized by the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board and thus granted reparations through R.A. 10368 [An Act Providing for Reparation and Recognition of Victims of Human Rights Violations During the Marcos Regime, Documentation of Said Violations, Appropriating Funds Therefor and for Other Purposes]. Reparations were determined through a points system, with 10 being the most severe to one being the least. In this film, 11 survivors share their harrowing accounts of torture and rape individually suffered, the murders and forced disappearances of idealistic family members and innocent neighbors, the burning down of their homes, farms, and villages by the Marcos Martial Law police, military, and vigilante forces. Their accounts are interspersed with disconcerting scenes of the UniTeam presidential campaign.

For 11,103, producer Kara Magsanoc Alikpala and director Jeanette Ifurong reprise their roles in the 1997 documentary Batas Militar. The earlier film was co-directed with Jon Red while 11,103 was co-directed with Mike Alcazaren.

The film also highlights the essential work of the Human Rights Violations Victims Memorial Commission (HRVVMC) whose gargantuan task has been to preserve and to present the painful memories, not just of the 11,103, but of approximately 75,000 victims whose records are in their safekeeping. Many of the victims were unlettered peasants from the hinterlands who could not present documentary evidence of decades-old atrocities, or corroborative witness accounts. This is expected, as the rapes, tortures and other acts of state-sponsored terror were perpetrated by much-feared military, police, or government-sanctioned armed vigilantes, like the Ilaga or the Lost Command, in military camps, prisons, and safe houses. Even if the criminals could be identified, it would be difficult to find other brave souls willing to testify against them. Thus, HRVVMC Executive Director Chuck Crisanto believes that there may be well over 200,000 victims of human rights violations during Marcos’ Martial Law.

On this the year of Marcos’ Martial Law’s 50th anniversary, the cornerstone was laid for the Freedom Memorial Museum which would permanently memorialize the history of Marcos Martial Law’s victims. However, under the present administration, it is doubtful that the funding provided by law for the construction of this museum will materialize. It is some consolation though that the 75,000 case files for claims by victims of Marcos Martial Law human rights violations have been digitized. There are copies in two Philippine universities and also in an American university.

Two years after Marcos declared Martial Law, there was the Palimbang Massacre in Sultan Kudarat, perpetrated on the fourth day of Ramadan, when the men were weak from fasting. The Moro Women’s Center records show that: 1,500 male Moros aged 11-70 were killed inside a mosque. 3,000 women and children aged nine to 60 were detained separately — many women were raped. Three hundred houses were razed by the government forces. For the Kanda Family, this filmed account was their first time to speak openly about the terror they had suffered as children during the Palimbang Massacre. For 44 years, they had been silent — a common effect of severe post traumatic events. Fourteen-year-old Haj Mariam Kanda was with the other women held on a navy ship that had shelled Palimbang. Fortunately, she was not violated, but saw how other young girls were gang-raped, then drowned in the sea. The boys saw their fathers shot, and were themselves severely beaten. Madaki “Daks” Kanda spoke Ilocano, which probably saved his life. Mohammad “Max/Ustadz” Kanda believes that throughout Marcos’ Martial Law, several hundred thousand Moros and lumad (indigenous peoples) in far-flung, isolated areas were similarly killed or otherwise brutalized by Marcos’ Martial Law forces. The Kanda Family interviews take place in the shelled mosque. The bloodstains are gone, but the bullet holes in the concrete walls are still there.

Purificacion Viernes’ forever scarred and mangled body is living proof of her ordeal. Her husband, a mere copra farmer, and their two youngest children died when they were strafed by paramilitary troops in the dead of night as they lay huddled together on the family banig (woven mat). Their humble wood and nipa home stood alone in a field in sparsely populated Brgy. Carmen, in the 4th class municipality of Jimenez, Misamis Occidental. Mrs. Viernes’ leg was so riddled with bullets, that she was permanently crippled. She had shielded her 13-year-old daughter Cecilia with her body during the assault. They were the only survivors and moved away after that night of terror. After nearly 40 years, it was only during the filming of 11,103 that Mrs. Viernes and Cecilia were able to return to the hollowed-out ruins of their home, where Mr. Viernes and the younger children had been killed by state paramilitary forces. Cecilia later worked with Task Force Detainees. Her mother has found comfort in the Church. Often, the religious and catechists have been in solidarity with the millions of Filipinos who suffered from violent hamletting and displacement, or were deprived of their farms and forest lands during Marcos Martial Law.

Hilda Narciso was such a church worker and teacher in 1983, when she was forcibly taken from a pastor’s home in Davao during a military raid. While blindfolded, she was gang raped for weeks, and kept imprisoned under dehumanizing conditions for another six months. Her rapists have never been brought to justice. She founded the Women’s Crisis Center, and works with other women’s advocacy groups. Now she has transformed herself into a wounded healer, applying therapies and alternative modalities to help other survivors of rape and violent dehumanization, to find their way forward, as she is doing. Still, she longs for the healing of our land.

Edicio dela Torre’s being an SVD priest did not protect him from a beating when he was imprisoned. His own healing has come through art. He rendered the animated pen and ink wash portraits and the sketches of re-enactments interspersed throughout 11,103. As president of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, he continues to work with farmers and fisherfolk who are among the most impoverished sectors in our society.

A UP-PGH (University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital) medical doctor, Aurora Parong, was imprisoned for a year and a half for treating suspected NPA (New People’s Army) members. Her lawyer brother was abducted in plain view by the military from a restaurant. His tortured, lifeless body was later dumped along the highway. Despite what she and her family have been through, she continues in her healing vocation and is teaching other medical students in Nueva Vizcaya. She has hope that the younger generations will carry the torch, and reminds us that the quest for a just and equitable society is not a sprint, but a relay.

11,103 lets us see the humanity and courage of these ordinary Filipinos, in the context of their early struggles, hardships and up till the present. Now we must all face the nightmare of history repeating — 11,103 is a wake-up call.

Those who would like to organize a screening of 11,103 in their own community or institution can fill out #11103Film #NeverForget #NeverAgain.

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